Sunday, March 30, 2008

Miss Brooklyn: dead, not dead, or simply not animatronic just yet?

OK, is Atlantic Yards dead? What about the Miss Brooklyn tower? Let's try to sort through the coverage, given that the two major Brooklyn weeklies, the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, are providing diametrically different coverage.

The short answer: Atlantic Yards, at the timetable envisioned, is obviously dead, but a major project somewhat like it might arrive on a much attenuated schedule. As for Miss Brooklyn, it's not "killed," but rather delayed, though developer Forest City Ratner seems to be seriously spinning its chances.

The Times's coverage

So far, the developer hasn't contradicted the basic premise of the 3/21/08 Times story, which began:
The slowing economy, weighed down by a widening credit crisis, is likely to delay the signature office tower and three residential buildings at the heart of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer said.


The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper's package of stories linked to the news, declaring Atlantic Yards dead and stating "Ratner kills Miss Brooklyn," while the text of the article cited the Times and overstated:
The proposed “Miss Brooklyn” skyscraper at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — a building Ratner and his architect Frank Gehry once wanted to be the tallest in Brooklyn — does not have an anchor tenant and will not be built, even in its scaled-back, 511-foot form.

“Until we get a tenant, we won’t start Miss Brooklyn,” Ratner told the Times.


Well, that means it won't be built until a tenant is found, not that it's been killed.

The Courier-Life

This week's Courier-Life chain has an article (not yet online) headlined "Miss Brooklyn building ain't dead yet." That strikes me as more accurate than "Ratner kills Miss Brooklyn," but the developer's spin deserves a close look:

The proposed iconic Miss Brooklyn building remains alive and may still be looking down into the glassfaced Barclay's Arena when the Brooklyn Nets play their first hoop game in the borough, according to a Forest City Ratner Companies spokesperson.

"Rumors of Miss Brooklyn's demise have been greatly exaggerated. We will build Miss Brooklyn when we get an anchor tenant and we have only just begun a very targeted, direct outreach to a select group of elite companies," said Forest City spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt.

Riegelhaupt clarified a recent New York Times story that stated the Atlantic Yards' project celebrity architect, Frank Gehry, sent letters to chief executives of many of the city's biggest corporations asking if they would be interested in becoming an anchor tenant of the building.

Riegelhaupt said less than 20 letters went out and it included corporations outside the city, as well.

"Thus far, there has been significant interest and responses have been very positive," said Riegelhaupt. "We believe this is a very unique office space and are looking for a unique tenant recognizing the stunning beauty of Mr. Gehry's architecture."


The Times on the tower

The Times reported:
In another indication of the problems facing the project, Forest City recently sent a letter signed by the project’s celebrity architect, Frank Gehry, to chief executives of many of the city’s biggest corporations, inviting them to become a tenant in the “centerpiece of the project,” Miss Brooklyn. It was originally scheduled to be completed in July 2009.

Brokers said that developers usually home in on companies actively looking for new headquarters, rather than cast such a wide net. Forest City’s approach was more akin to cold-calling to solicit interest, a possible sign, they said, that the developer was struggling to find tenants.


That doesn't sound like "very targeted, direct outreach." And "fewer than 20 letters" doesn't exclude "many of the city's biggest corporations."

Note that the Courier-Life article ignored the generous timetable--6+ years to build the arena and 12+ years for the first phase--granted by the Empire State Development Corporation.

1 comment:

  1. I always appreciate Norman's commentary, but he's wrong to suggest that The Brooklyn Paper went too far by declaring that Ratner has killed Miss Brooklyn. Indeed, Miss Brooklyn IS dead — Ratner himself told The New York Times, "Until we get a tenant, we won’t start Miss Brooklyn.”

    That said, of course, if he succeeds in getting that tenant — and restores Miss Brooklyn to the now-truncated Atlantic Yards project — I could foresee a very different headline: "Back from the dead! Ratner revives Miss Brooklyn"

    But that remains to be seen.

    GERSH KUNTZMAN
    Editor
    The Brooklyn Paper

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